Tag Archives: desert

A Review of 2016 on the Road

We left Atlanta in April of 2015 for a life on the road.  Over the past nearly 2 years, we have enjoyed lots of great sights, met lots of fun people and experienced living in a 400 square foot “tiny home” with 2 dogs and one bathroom.

And this is just the beginning!

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Santa Fe, NM

We get asked a lot if we will ever settle down again in a regular home.  At this point in time, we have no plans for that.  We have absolutely no regrets.  We love our new roaming lifestyle and the fact that as we work-camp across the country, we get to actually experience each area as the locals do.

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Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

With the year 2017 on the horizon, I wanted to do a review of the past year on the road along with some of the trials and tribulations that went along with it.

Many ask about our financials, so I will go into that a bit, along with a few things we have learned and experienced as we traveled this year.

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Total Mileage this year

We began our year working in St. Petersburg, FL at the St. Petersburg KOA.  Our job ended there near the end of March.  Our next job would begin around May 1 in Williams, AZ, but we needed to make an extended stop in Atlanta due to health issues with our dog, Ralph.

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Our route took us to Orlando, a short pit stop in our favorite campground on Tybee Island, then onto Atlanta for a total of 633 miles.

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We then traveled westward through Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and finally Williams, AZ, right near the Grand Canyon.  This was a total of  1,798 miles.

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Our job in Williams ended on October 31 and our job in Tucson began on November 15.  We took the long way with a detour through Laughlin, NV and Lake Havasu City, AZ, adding another     520 miles.

Grand total miles on the coach for 2016 was 2,951 miles.

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Only in Arizona- The Tumbleweed Christmas Tree!

Yes, at first glance it looks like a normal Christmas tree in the center of town.  But Chandler, Arizona creates something unique and beautiful each year.  Something that you can find nowhere else in the country…

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This beautiful tree is made up of thousands of tumbleweeds!

Yes, thousands of them!  It takes around 1,000 of these tumbling dead bushes to create the massive 30″ tall tree each year.

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Local tradition holds that Chandler’s Tumbleweed Tree was the brainchild of Earle Barnum.  He came up with the idea for the tumbleweed tree after seeing a tree built with local pine boughs in his hometown in Indiana.

How do they make a Tumbleweed Tree?

Starting in the fall, the tumbleweeds are gathered and then placed around a chicken wire frame.  They are then sprayed with flame retardant white paint, sprinkled with over 65 pounds of glitter, and strung with lights.

This wonderfully unique tradition has been carried on for over 60 years in the town of Chandler.

Of course, once we heard about it, we had to see it!

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There was lots to see and do in the town area surrounding the Tumbleweed Tree including great little shops and restaurants.  Naturally, we had to try out one of the restaurants.

The sacrifices we make for this website.  LOL!

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We decided to check out Crust Restaurant, a local Italian eatery.  From inside, we could watch the tree as darkness began to fall and the lights were lit.

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We had some amazing pasta dishes at Crust.  We enjoyed a fresh board of Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Bruschetta, along with our main course of Grandma’s Pasta- a yummy mix of pasta, meatballs, sausage, ricotta and marinara!

Definitely worth a return visit!

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And as darkness fell, the Tumbleweed Tree grew even more beautiful!

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We really enjoyed the lights in the square.

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After all, it is pretty hard to decorate an RV.   The lights in the streets were amazing.

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This is our second Christmas living full time in our coach.  And one of the things I love about that is that we can experience Christmas just a bit differently each year.

Last year, we were on the beaches of Florida, and this year we are enjoying a Tumbleweed Christmas tree!

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And back at the campground, the doggies are settling in just fine.  Faith and Ralph have decided that the campground was pretty nice about supplying them with an official “doggie sidewalk”.

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We brought a few more of the old traditions back to our coach including whipping up a big batch of Old Fashioned Potato Candy.  (You can find the full recipe on my other website, Suzy’s Sitcom).

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Faith and Ralph (and both of us) wish you all an amazing, happy and healthy holiday season!

Next week, I plan on doing a review of our past year on the road!  Stay tuned!

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A visit to Saguaro National Park

First things first: it’s pronounced “suh-wahr-oh.”  Do you know how many years I have mispronounced this cactus?  Yep, I am ridiculously southern and can’t seem to shake it.

Anyway, we decided to make the short drive out to Saguaro National Park to see what all the fuss was about.

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And there you have it.  Cactus as far as you can see.

Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. There are two sections of the park, one on the west side of Tucson and one on the east side.  Our visit this week was to the west.

The Sonoran Desert is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent. In the summer, it is common for the temperatures to climb over 100 degrees and it gets less than 12 inches of rain in a typical year.

With that in mind, it was surprisingly lush and beautiful!

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The plants and animals are able to survive this environment with adaptations specially designed for desert survival.  At first glance, desert life seems rather unfriendly.

Talk about a bunch of defense mechanisms!  It would not be a great thing to trip and fall while hiking around this part of the country!

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But in an extreme environment such as this, I imagine a great defense is necessary.

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Even the local wildlife is extreme.  The Sonoran Desert is home to 18 species of rattlesnakes.  There are also poisonous Gila Monsters,  and Coyotes, and Javelinas.

Not a lot of friendly in this part of the country, that’s for sure.

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The star of the show is the Saguaro Cactus.  It is not only the state symbol of Arizona, but a universally recognized image of the Southwest!

It is the largest and slowest growing of all cacti.  The shorter ones to the left of me in the photo above are about 75 years old.  The one to the right of me could be as old as 200 years.

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These amazing cacti can weigh up to 8 tons, partly because of the large amount of water the stems can hold. Giant saguaro cacti, unique to the Sonoran Desert, sometimes reach a height of 50 feet.

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Life in Tucson

As full time RVers and work campers, we find ourselves moving with the seasons.  Most campgrounds hire for a six month long season.  You can work longer if you’d like as long as the campground is open all year.  Unfortunately, in the wintertime, most of the campgrounds in the northern section of the United States close due to inclement weather.

Our new home...
Our new home…

And not to mention, our coach has issues with below freezing temperatures.  In the future, we have learned that when buying a coach, you need to get what they call a “Polar Package”.  This includes not only heated floors, but extra insulation and a heated undercarriage.  These were things we didn’t think about at the time, and as usual, we learn the hard way.

With that said, we move to warmer weather just as the snowbirds do.  In fact, I guess that makes us snowbirds too!  LOL!

Our view from our front yard
Our view from our front yard

We find the majority of our work camping jobs on the internet and in May, we ran across an opening at the Lazy Days Tucson KOA for kitchen staff.  After several seasons of working the front desk, reservations and check ins, we decided we would love to have a small break.  So we applied.  I figured we would either love it or hate it, but either way- we only will be there through the winter.

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Sunset on the campground
Sunset on the campground

Why stay in Arizona?  Northern Arizona was absolutely beautiful with its pine forests and high mountains.  We wanted to also experience the desert of Arizona.  Tucson is located in southern Arizona very near the Mexico border.  Here we can experience the local desert, beautiful Saguaro forests, local Indian and Mexican influences, and much more.

Thanksgiving dinner at the KOA
Thanksgiving dinner at the KOA

We arrived here in the middle of November and enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving celebration with everyone on the campground.

Tucson KOA is a huge campground with around 500 sites.  Every site is gravel, with a poured concrete patio and and a small asphalt driveway for your vehicle.  And every single site has at least one fruit tree.

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Leaving Circle Pines and heading to new Adventures!

We have been on the road now about a year and a half.  And the adventure has just begun.  Selling the house and nearly everything that we owned was difficult.  Leaving our friends and family behind was too.   But I have to tell you that we have absolutely no regrets.

Life on the road is everything we thought it would be.

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We often are asked how we can support ourselves on the road and I have to say that fortunately for us, we are able to handle most of our bills with income from my websites.

However, we do need a buffer.  And that is where KOA has come in.  We are doing seasonal work at various campgrounds in order to supplement our income while we see the country.

Last week we left Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ and I have to say that it was a sad farewell.  We not only loved this surprisingly beautiful area of the country, but made a bunch of new friends in the process that we definitely will miss.

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And we absolutely loved working for Bruce and Lori.  They made campground work an adventure.

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Our cool shady spot underneath the tall pines is now just a memory.  I would have loved to stay through the winter, but our coach does not love cold weather.  So it is onto to warmer regions.

We are currently at Lake Havasu for a brief vacation and then moving onto our winter job in Tucson, AZ.

But as I like to do, I’ve created a video of our memories from this beautiful campground on the high plains of Arizona.

Next week as a final chapter, I will be posting the top 10 Things to do in Williams, AZ.

Want more videos?

If you would like to see a bit about the parts of the country that we have visited so far, you can see our other videos here:

Our Season working at the St. Petersburg KOA

A Compilation Video of our Summer at Bar Harbor!

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Of hail storms, tumbleweeds and crazy looking squirrels…

We have been here in the high desert about three months now.  Time is certainly flying by!  We are half way through our season at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ already.

I want to talk about a few unusual things that we have discovered here in this beautiful place.  Things like extreme weather,  tumbleweeds and funky squirrels.

Oh my!

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Northern Arizona was really not what we were expecting.  Having never been to Arizona before, I figured we would be living in a desert.  And true to form, much of Arizona is just that.  But the towns of Williams and the Flagstaff area sit at about 7300 feet above sea level.

And that makes all the difference in the world!

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At such high altitude, we often have folks showing up at the campground with altitude sickness.  It takes at least three days for your body to adjust.

You also have to think about things such as adding flour to your baking recipes and the fact that water boils much slower.

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But I’d have to say that the biggest thing to get used to was the quick and dramatic changes of weather that are so common here in the high desert.

Monsoon Season

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When visiting the town of Sedona a few weeks ago, we took a bunch of photos of the beautiful rock formations and the gathering clouds behind them.  It was in the 80’s that day.  Sunny and warm.

And then we went into a restaurant to have lunch.

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We came out to several inches of pea sized hail and temperatures in the 60’s!  Freak storm?  Hardly.

It seems that at this altitude, these types of storms are quite common.

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Especially during the Monsoon season of mid July through August.  Most days are sunny and temperate.  Most afternoons are full of interesting surprises.

We are right in the clouds.  Thunderstorms can be very dangerous.  The weather here can kill those that do not properly respect it.

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Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater

One of the great things about traveling the country is that wherever we stop, our family will eventually join us!  My sister and her husband arrived for a long weekend and stayed in a cabin at our campground.

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We took them on an adventure to visit Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument.

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Lynda and Jeff are very familiar with this part of the country.  Having done many road trips in Arizona and New Mexico, they knew exactly what they wanted to see again.

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They suggested that we take the 73 mile Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monument loop.  This scenic loop would take us through the vast lava fields of Sunset Crater and then onto the ancient pueblos that make up Wupatki National Monument.

Located about 15 miles north of Flagstaff, this was a fun day trip for all of us!

Sunset Crater

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Our first stop was the amazing lava fields at Sunset Crater.  You see, nearly 1,000 years ago a fiery volcano destroyed the landscape and the tiny settlements that used to call this area home.

New mountains were created and where there used to be grassy meadows, there remains acres and acres of lava fields.

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These photos truly do not do it justice.  There was hardened lava as far as the eye could see.

The lava and cinder rocks seem frozen in time, almost as if they had just cooled down last week.

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There is a one mile self-guided loop trail located at the base of Sunset Crater, but hiking to the summit is no longer permitted. Unfortunately, the trail to the summit and crater was closed in 1973 because of excessive erosion caused by hikers.

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The wildflowers in the area were just beautiful.  These are called Apache Plume.  It is a drought resistant plant that is located mainly in the southwestern US.

A thousand years ago, this land was desolate and barren.  Now nature rules again.

Our next stop was the Wupatki National Monument…

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A look at Monument Valley!

One thing that we love about the high plateau of Williams and Flagstaff is the fact that the summer is very mild.  Travel two hours in any direction and you come down from the plateau into 100+ degree weather.

This week, we decided to bite the bullet and head for the amazing vistas of Monument Valley.

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Yes, it was 102 degrees in the shade.  But we have to tell you that the adventure was totally worth the extra heat!  If you have never gotten the chance to see Monument Valley in person, be sure to add it to your bucket list.

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Monument Valley is about a four hour drive from Williams.  Heading pretty much due north, it is just across the Arizona/Utah state line.

Monument Valley is characterized by vast sandstone buttes, many reaching over 1,000 ft above the valley floor.  It is located almost entirely on the Navajo Nation Reservation.  

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The drive was a long one.  Once we went down into the valley, we passed from the pine tree forests into the hot desert.  It wasn’t long before we started seeing red rock in the distance.

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visit to monument valley

Because it was going to be a very long day, we decided to take the dogs with us.

Seems that they are not as easy to impress as we are.  They spent the entire journey in the back of the car with the air conditioner running.

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 Look familiar at all?

Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media since as early as the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, including Stagecoach, starring John Wayne.

To many, this is what the old west represented.

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